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ACA Vows To Work With FCC On Net Neutrality Rules

The Federal Communications Commission is planning to move forward with Net Neutrality rules that would prohibit phone and cable companies from blocking or discriminating against Internet traffic on their broadband networks.

The vote, scheduled for Dec. 21, was announced Dec. 1 by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, who has decided against regulating broadband access providers as common carriers under Title II provisions of federal telecommunications law that were created to oversee monopoly phone carriers many decades ago.

"Based on FCC Chairman Genachowski's statement, the ACA appreciates the Chairman's effort to adopt regulations designed to protect and preserve an open Internet under a set of consumer-centric principles that would not involve reclassification of broadband access as a common carrier service. A Title II framework would have imposed large and burdensome costs on small cable operators that offer broadband service, as ACA documented in filings with the agency this year. It's also important that Chairman Genachowski's statement recognized the importance of business innovation that promotes network investment and efficient use of networks, including measures that match price to cost, such as usage-based pricing," American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.

Net neutrality, backed by many technology companies like Google,Yahoo! and Skype, was one of President Obama's top campaign pledges and Genachowski made it a priority when he took office in June 2009. Genachowski's plan would, if approved, require broadband providers to let subscribers access all legal online content, applications and services over their wireline networks.

Genachowski's decision to forsake Title II was important for small broadband providers. In filings, ACA warned that Title II regulation of small providers would prove burdensome and that the agency had to inventory and access those burdens before reclassifying broadband from a lightly regulated information service to a more strongly regulated common carrier service. ACA urged that prior to adoption of any rules, the FCC had to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), compelling a formal rulemaking, and the Regulatory Flexibility Act, (RFA), requiring quantification of the Title II burdens on small operators and proposals to mitigate them.

"Chairman Genachowski's statement reflects a desire to reach a balanced compromise -- one that rests on a desire to protect broadband consumers while at the same time recognizing the important network management concerns of broadband providers. As the process moves forward, ACA is committed to playing a constructive role without abandoning its view that disproportionately burdensome regulation will fail to spur robust economic growth generated by broadband investment, innovation and infrastructure deployment made by ACA members serving some of the most economically challenging markets in the country," Polka said.

Genachowski's plan would allow broadband providers to manage their networks to deal with problems such as network congestion and unwanted traffic like spam as long as they publicly disclose their network management practices.

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